Dogs Join the Battle Against Cancer for Frum Kids


dog-cancer-kidWhen a patient is diagnosed with cancer, this discovery disrupts the functioning of the entire family unit and creates a crisis situation. Ezer Mizion’s Oranit Guest Home and Rehabilitation Center offers a variety of therapies to help children with cancer cope with this emotional turmoil. The main objectives of therapy are to create emotional readiness to endure difficult treatments, attain optimal success of the treatments, and assist in ensuring smooth social re-integration, including a successful return to school.

In the course of seeking techniques that will help advance these objectives, the staff at Ezer Mizion learned of a program involving therapeutic dogs. Enabling the patient to create an ongoing relationship with a dog under the guidance of a skilled therapist creates a means of therapeutic support with a number of advantages, among them: helping the child build a bond, fostering a sense of control, reducing the focus on physical pain, depression and anxiety, developing emotional awareness and skills for emotional expression, and coping with aggression.

The positive effects of such a program have already been proven for the general population.   However, using therapeutic dogs as a work model for treatment of cancer patients is still a new, experimental field. The erection of a dog kennel is still at the planning stages. The dogs will reside at Oranit, thus enabling the staff to maintain a high level of cleanliness, monitor the dogs’ health, prevent passage of disease, and retain a uniform sequence.

The concept of therapy dogs in a residential facility for cancer patients is unique. In order to monitor the project and document its influence on the population from the earliest stages, Ezer Mizion is planning to conduct a structured study on the emotional effects of the therapy, based on interviews with participating children at the onset of the activity, in the course of the activity and after 4 months of the activity. The project will be of direct benefit to the patients involved and also serve as a valuable source of information for similar facilities which may benefit from a comparable model of dog therapy.

{Yair Israel}


  1. This method has been shown to work in other contexts. Family members and other adults are often so emotionally distressed that it interferes with the relationship with the child (or for that matter, with an adult patient), because “cancer” has so many frightening associations. A child can have a direct and uncomplicated bond with a dog – the dog is always supportive, doesn’t care what the prognosis is, and never feels guilty about the child being sick.

    And it works with kids who have other problems. Some libraries now have a program where small children read children’s books out loud to a friendly dog. The children’s reading skills actually improve, because the dog isn’t judgmental or critical.

    Kids need unconditional love and affirmation, and sometimes the grownups around are just too emotionally involved to be the most effective.